Wednesday, January 2, 2008

An easy prediction for 2008: More AGW hysteria

Well, this was a nice New Year gift from the New York Times. Science writer John Tierney turned his guns on Al Gore and co. in his January 1 column. While he doesn't actually dispute the notion that global warming is occurring, he does challenge the selective reporting of weather and climate events that make it look like AGW is already having catastrophic effects on our planet.

A year ago, British meteorologists made headlines predicting that the buildup of greenhouse gases would help make 2007 the hottest year on record. At year’s end, even though the British scientists reported the global temperature average was not a new record — it was actually lower than any year since 2001 — the BBC confidently proclaimed, “2007 Data Confirms Warming Trend.”

When the Arctic sea ice last year hit the lowest level ever recorded by satellites, it was big news and heralded as a sign that the whole planet was warming. When the Antarctic sea ice last year reached the highest level ever recorded by satellites, it was pretty much ignored. A large part of Antarctica has been cooling recently, but most coverage of that continent has focused on one small part that has warmed.

When Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans in 2005, it was supposed to be a harbinger of the stormier world predicted by some climate modelers. When the next two hurricane seasons were fairly calm — by some measures, last season in the Northern Hemisphere was the calmest in three decades — the availability entrepreneurs changed the subject. Droughts in California and Australia became the new harbingers of climate change (never mind that a warmer planet is projected to have more, not less, precipitation over all).

Tierney attributes this cherrypicking of data to a species of animal called the availability entrepreneur: "the activists, journalists and publicity-savvy scientists who selectively monitor the globe looking for newsworthy evidence of a new form of sinfulness, burning fossil fuels."

One person who has made a handsome living from cherrypicking the data is, of course, Al Gore. Tierney ends his essay with this parting shot:
“In the last few months,” Mr. Gore said [in his Nobel prize acceptance speech], “it has been harder and harder to misinterpret the signs that our world is spinning out of kilter.” But he was being too modest. Thanks to availability entrepreneurs like him, misinterpreting the weather is getting easier and easier.